House Republicans, facing failure on passing their leadership-backed compromise immigration bill, reverted to a tried-and-true escape hatch when it comes to immigration: postpone and keep negotiating.
It’s a process that has taken place repeatedly – to some degree for years – and has never netted an actual GOP-only bill that can get a majority in the House.
Will one more weekend of talks change that? Senior aides who have been through this a dozen or so times are understandably very skeptical. But we’ll see.
Bottom line: President Donald Trump says don’t even bother.
The Senate Majority Leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, has no intention of taking up a House proposal that will fall well short of the votes needed to pass in the chamber.
As of noon Thursday, aides said the immigration bill wasn’t just short of the votes – it was well short of the votes. It would be quite something to turn that around in 72 hours.
What negotiators are working on
Two specific issues are in play: an expansion of the e-verify system and addressing farm state lawmaker concerns of agriculture visas. To be perfectly clear, these are not clean or easy issues. The are complicated thickets that bring in a lot of different business and constituent elements that likely will only serve to bring new problems to the table.
Or, as one aide working on this put it last night: “It has been years. Seriously, there is no silver bullet.”
House members are in town for another few hours, so getting the parameters of negotiations will be the most newsworthy endeavor. Beyond that, things should be fairly quiet.
How negotiators are framing it
As Rep. Jeff Denham, a California Republican and the lead moderate negotiator, put it Thursday night after the closed-door briefing, the issues are new to this negotiation and may – may – provide some kind of path forward on the votes.
“We’re having a discussion about E-Verify and Ag jobs – two very important issues that we’ve yet to discuss so far, so we’re going to spend the weekend and delay the vote until next week to see if we can come to a compromise on those final two issues,” Denham said.
To give you a sense of how fast things developed and what happened inside the closed-door briefing last night that led to this – 20 minutes before it ended, people inside told CNN the vote would be Friday and nothing had changed to forestall its inevitable failure. Then, with more than three quarters of the GOP conference already gone from the meeting, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave the go-ahead for the lead negotiators to keep talking through the weekend.
Twelve hours after House leaders made the last minute decision to give their members a few more days to negotiate, Trump tweeted this: “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after we elect more Senators and Congressmen/women in November.”
In the Senate
Amid the continued House negotiations, across the chamber there is now a renewed bipartisan focus on finding a targeted, bipartisan solution to the family separation issue. The reality is this: There is no faith on Capitol Hill in either party that the President’s executive order 1) goes far enough or 2) is anything more than temporary.
Meetings are expected to continue on Monday. Keep your eyes on Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein – hardly a natural bipartisan negotiating duo, but two lawmakers diametrically opposed to one another on ideological grounds who are attempting to find a path forward on legislation.
The pathway for a bipartisan, targeted bill on family separation is still very, very unclear. But the Senate will lead the way and try and force the hand of their House counterparts. We’ll have to wait and see if anything develops. At this point, there still isn’t an obvious way of getting a bill through both chambers, aides in both parties have made clear, but the public outcry and pressure surrounding the chaos that has occurred post-executive order may spur something.